CSSC looks offshore and beyond

Updated: 2013-11-30 07:37

By May Zhou in Houston (China Daily USA)

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Entering the offices of CSSC Offshore in Houston, the first thing that catches your eye is the glass-encased model of China's first and only deep-water rig designed and built in China by CSSC - Hai Yang Shi You 981. The model symbolizes the mission of this new division of CSSC - gaining a foothold in the offshore business. "We're here," declares Chen Weimin, business development director of CSSC Offshore. "Come look for us!"

The office, just opened earlier this year, is in the heart of Houston's Energy Corridor amidst oil companies big and small. The mega compounds of BP and Shell are just minutes away, as are the offices of his previous employer, a major Norwegian offshore drilling company. To Chen, this is a familiar playground. The only difference now is this time he is playing the role of pioneer for CSSC Offshore.

China State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC), established in 1999, is a huge conglomerate. It is the mainstay of the shipbuilding industry in China and ranks as one of the top shipbuilding outfits in the world.

 CSSC looks offshore and beyond

A model of China's first and only deep-water rig designed and built by CSSC is on display at the company's office in Houston. May Zhou / China Daily

Although shipbuilding is CSSC's main business, it has already expanded into more than 20 ancillary fields such as aerospace, construction, power generation, petrochemicals, hydraulic engineering, environmental protection, metallurgy, railway and light industry.

Since 2000, CSSC has made great progress in its offshore sector and become the top offshore products and service supplier in China. And it's still growing.

Recruited by CSSC through China's Recruitment Program of Global Experts, Chen came aboard intending to bring CSSC into a new market.

"CSSC doesn't have an international sales team, and we used to sit there and wait for people come to us with orders of shipbuilding. We'd bid, win the bid, and build. However, we have to change that way of doing business in today's environment, especially in the field of offshore drilling."

Chen pointed out that offshore engineering is different from shipbuilding because of the timeline involved. "It's normal for a project to take as long as five to 10 years," he said. "One has to start following a project from the early stages of seismic surveys to evaluation and total project design."

This is not the first time that Chen has played the role of pioneer. A graduate of Shanghai Jiaotong University, he did post-doctorate research at the Norwegian Institute of Technology in the early 1990s. He was recruited by a Norwegian offshore company and came to Houston in 2001 as its project manager. In 2004, he was sent to China as the company's chief representative until 2010. During his stay in China, he worked closely with China's shipbuilding companies and spearheaded a large joint venture project with CSSC in Qingdao, Shandong province.

The head of the Qingdao project invited him to join CSSC and Chen jumped ship.

Chen has big ideas for CSSC's offshore business and Houston, he says, is the perfect place to be. "Offshore talents are concentrated in Houston, it's very easy to find qualified people to hire. Here we can easily interact with clients, partners and suppliers at early stages of a project," he said.

"I want to transform the Houston office into CSSC's platform for global sales, the bridge for overseas cooperation and a window to attract talents," Chen said. "I want to turn CSSC's Houston office into China's one stop solution for offshore engineering."

To achieve this goal, he plans to explore research and development in offshore design by hiring local experts. "CSSC has strong capabilities for construction, we have state-of-the-art facilities for production. However, we don't have offshore design capabilities. We could organically grow our offshore design from within, but that would take too long and we don't have the proper conditions for that in China. We need projects to develop designs and we can't get projects by just sitting in China."

Another way would be joint ventures or even merger and acquisition. "CSSC has been conservative in this respect, but we are improving," Chen said

Of course, getting projects is the primary goal of Chen's international operation. "We would like to cooperate with primary contractors here in Houston as a subcontractor to provide efficient and high quality construction solutions for offshore engineering."

Chen is currently actively recruiting talent for his ambitious international offshore endeavors for CSSC. Although based in Houston, Chen's scope is international. "I think Singapore might be a good place for CSSC to set up another overseas branch office," he said.


(China Daily USA 11/30/2013 page10)